Hashtag Trending May 18- 60 per cent of Americans think AI could threaten civilization; Big Tech look for cheaper overseas replacements for laid off workers; Newegg provides another business case for conversational AI in commerce

Six out of ten Americans think that AI could “threaten civilization.” Big Tech companies look for cheaper overseas replacements for laid off workers. And 60 per cent of Twitter users say they’ve taken a break from the platform over the past year. 

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These top tech news stories and more for Thursday May 18, 2023, I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada, and Tech News Day in the US.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that more than two-thirds of Americans are concerned about the negative impact of the rapid growth of AI.  Six in 10 – 60 per cent believe that it could even threaten civilization. 

The poll revealed that the number of Americans who see adverse outcomes is three times more than those who do not.

Interestingly, people who voted for Donald Trump were 10 per cent more fearful than those who voted for Biden and evangelical Christians were 8 per cent more concerned than others in the sample.

But even with the differences in the groups, it is clear that a broad segment of US citizens are fearful of the development of AI. 

This study comes on the heels of ChatGPT becoming the fastest growing application of all time and the resulting AI “arms race” as Google and Microsoft and others fight for supremacy or at least a share of the AI market. 

Landon Klein, director of U.S. policy of the Future of Life Institute, the organization behind an open letter that demanded a six-month pause in AI research said, “We view the current moment similar to the beginning of the nuclear era, and we have the benefit of public perception that is consistent with the need to take action.”

As we heard with the testimony of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, even the creators of the software have their concerns. Legislators were clear that they were struggling to understand how to regulate AI software. 

Where we have yet to have a consensus is not only on what should be done, but what can be done. As one US Senator Cory Booker explained, “There’s no way to put this genie in the bottle. Globally, this is exploding.” 

Sources include: Reuters 

It turns out that many of the big tech companies who laid off or dismissed workers over the past few months are now trying to hire cheaper foreign workers to replace those workers.

Google laid off about 12,000 employees but is now filing applications is only one of the companies that have requested some of the thousands of H1-B foreign worker visas according to investigative journalist Lee Fang. Other companies include Meta, Amazon, Salesforce, Microsoft and others who have laid off significant numbers of employees. 

HI-B visas are controversial and critics have maintained that they are used to take jobs from US citizens and permanent residents. 

Fang reported on a 2017 study by the National Bureau for Economic Research which claimed that wages for US computer scientists would have been between 2.6 and 5.1 per cent higher and that employment would have been between 6.1 to 10.8 per cent higher “in the absence of immigration.” 

But the studies and even Fang’s conclusions are difficult to reconcile with the fact that even with the layoffs, there are still a large number of unfilled tech jobs in the US, by some estimates, more than 100 thousand.  And that same report quoted by Fang also points out that there have been substantial benefits to the US economy from workers on H1-B visas in terms of innovation, productivity and resultant reductions in inflation. 

In addition, some of those who were laid off or displaced were foreign workers who were placed in limbo when their jobs ended. 

Are the big tech companies trying to take advantage of the current situation and lower their labour costs? Probably. But like many debates about jobs and immigration – it’s important to consider all the data.

Sources include: Lee Fang and Understanding the Economic Impact of the H1-B Program on the US as well as the New York Post

Newegg Commerce has provided another business case for the use of conversational AI in commerce, this one with an IT twist. Their new PC Builder shopping tool is integrated with ChatGPT to facilitate the customizing of PC builds and purchasing.  

Not only is the new system able to provide information for ordering, it also allows the customer to search for compatible components that are eligible for discounts or special savings – ensuring that customers get the best prices. 

I did a quick review and it’s still a complex task, but I could see the way it presented the options for me on a simple prompt describing the type of PC I was trying to order. We’ll post a link in the text version and you can judge for yourself.

Sources: Newegg 

Gartner Inc found that CEOs cited AI as the top disruptive technology affecting industries, which is itself not much of surprise. But the report had some additional insights. 

Growth is the top strategic priority for companies with 49 per cent of the CEOs surveyed noting it as a priority. Technology related items were number two at about 34 per cent, but the focus on growth is an indication that those presenting digital or technological strategies should be tying these to business growth if they want to win investment from executives.

But for the first time, environmental sustainability rose 25 per cent from last year’s survey and for the first time, it has appeared in the CEO’s top 10 priorities.  Gartner predicts that by 2026 environmental sustainability will be a higher CEO strategic business priority than technology related investments.

Sources include: Gartner 

And fake news social media accounts are not just a Western phenomenon. China announced that in an effort to clean up the internet more than 100,000 online accounts that it claims disseminate “fake news” or impersonate state-controlled media were shut down.  And as congressional committees were debating what legislation was necessary, the Chinese government was taking action on the abuse of AI – authorities arrested a man who had used ChatGPT to generate a fake story about a train crash. 

Fake accounts and abuse of AI to disseminate misleading news. Everybody tries to copy western culture. 

Sources include: Reuters 

And finally, 60 per cent of U.S. Twitter users have ‘taken a break’ from Twitter in the past year for several weeks or even more. 

Not surprisingly, groups that are most targeted for abuse on the platform are the most likely to take a break – women and black users tend to be most likely to step away, but the effect is there over a wider range of users as well. 

Now, before we round up the usual suspects, we should point out that there is no data to find out whether this was more or less of a problem before Elon Musk’s takeover. He’s only be ruining things, I mean running things for 6 months. 

What it really does point out is that Twitter doesn’t have the same addictive quality as other social media platforms, and that’s a danger, especially as Musk’s new CEO tries to rebuild the advertising revenue which has plunged enormously since Musk took over. 

And Musk has only been running Twitter for about 6 months?  Seems longer somehow. But then – I’ve been taking a break from Twitter as well. 

Sources include: Tech Crunch

That’s the top tech news for today.  We go to air with a daily newscast five days a week, as well as a special weekend interview with an expert on topics relevant to today’s tech news.

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I’m your host, Jim Love.  Have a Thrilling Thursday!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Lovehttp://www.itworldcanada.com
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO of a great company - IT World Canada - Canada's leading ICT publisher.

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